2017-10-05 11:11:42 UTC
Irving killer who shot his baby girl, 3-year-old son wins death row reprieve
An Irving father sentenced to death for the revenge killing of his children
after their mother left him has been granted a new punishment trial.
Hector Rolando Medina, 38, shot 3-year-old Javier and 8-month-old Diana in the
head and the neck after his girlfriend left him in March 2007. He then shot
himself in the neck outside his Irving home.
Medina was convicted of capital murder in 2008 and sent to death row, after
defense attorney Donna Winfield didn't call a single witness or present closing
arguments during the punishment phase of the trial.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that Medina
should be granted a new punishment trial because of his defense attorney's
The Dallas County district attorney's office will decide whether to again seek
the death penalty against Medina. The automatic sentence for capital murder in
Texas is life without the possibility of parole.
"These cases are very expensive and very time-consuming," said First Assistant
District Attorney Michael Snipes. "Those two factors have to be taken into
consideration, not only in this case but in every case where a defendant is
The district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Antonio
Cochran, who is accused of kidnapping and killing 18-year-old Zoe Hastings in
Justice Michael Keasler wrote in a concurring opinion that granting Medina a
new punishment trial gives the convicted child killer "a 2nd bite at the
Keasler expressed "profound disgust" at Winfield's handling of the punishment
phase of the trial, saying that the attorney "intentionally torpedoed" the
There was a six-week break after Medina was convicted before the punishment
phase began. Winfield asked for more time to bring expert witnesses to the
courthouse, but the judge denied the request.
In response, Winfield refused to call any witnesses or rest her case during
punishment. She was thrown in jail for being in contempt of court.
During a hearing requesting a new trial after Medina was sentenced, Winfield
said, "I wasn't going to put on a disjointed defense of Mr. Medina. ... That
wasn't fair to him or to the jury."
Justice Sharon Keller wrote in a dissenting opinion that Medina's defense
attorney had "fully participated in the state's punishment case, including
Prosecutors say Medina killed his children as revenge after his longtime
girlfriend left him.
Elia Martinez-Bermudez testified that Medina would hold her down and force her
to have sex with him. He begged her to come back after she left him in January
2007. When she did, he threatened to kill her, the children and himself if she
ever left him again.
In March 2007, Medina borrowed a friend's gun and a box of bullets and then
refused to let Martinez-Bermudez see her children when she asked. Later that
day, he shot Javier and Diana and then himself.
Diana "had a tombstone before she could talk," prosecutor Felicia Oliphant said
during the trial. "Is there anything sadder than that?"
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Convicted murderer Randall Mays found competent to be executed
A Henderson County man found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of
two East Texas sheriff deputies, has been found competent to be executed.
Randall Mays was convicted of killing Henderson County Sheriff Deputy Tony
Ogburn and Paul Habelt and seriously injuring Deputy Kevin Harris in May of
The ruling of competency was made by visiting Judge Joe Clayton, of Tyler and a
date has not been set for Mays' execution.
Prior to the imminent execution scheduled for March 18, 2015, Mays filed a
motion regarding competency to be executed.
According to court documents, Mays was examined by several doctors. What the
court ultimately determined was that Mays' mental illness does not deprive him
of his understanding. The court's findings were detailed in documents filed in
After consideration of all the credible evidence, the Court has concluded that
Randall Mays has failed to meet his burden by a preponderance of the evidence,
and the Court rules as follows:
While Randall Mays does have some form of mental illness, it does not deprive
him of the rational understanding of the connection between his crime and the
"Since Mr. Mays has been sitting on death row, he has not been diagnosed,
treated or received prescribed medications for any mental illness or obsession
that has any bearing on this inquiry," the court found.
During Mays' trial, jurors heard more than a week of testimony. It took jurors
just under three hours to hand down Randall Mays' death sentence for the murder
of Ogburn and Habelt. Mays was sentenced by Judge Carter Terrance to the death
penalty by lethal injection after the death penalty was recommended by an
Mays initially entered a not guilty plea. In Mays' letter dated January 6,
2013, to his wife, he described the crime scene and provided specific details
of the officers' actions. Also, less than a month prior to the original
execution date of March 18, 2015, Mays wrote a detailed letter to his sister
regarding the cost of necessary materials needed to build "the wood box" and
gave information on where to obtain the supplies. In the same letter, he
informed her of the burial plots purchased for the Mays family in Dunbar
A 911 tape was played from the day of the shooting and pictures of the crime
scene were also shown in court. At one point Mays became visibly shaken and
began to weep during the proceedings.
The Court allowed the testimony of 2 mental health experts on the subject of
Mays' state of mind during the shootings. They testified about Mays' paranoia
and depression leading up to when he allegedly shot the Henderson County
It was also revealed in court that Mays' older brother, Noble Mays, was
executed in 1995 for a capital murder offense.
The Henderson County District Attorney's Office confirmed to KLTV that on
Monday Mays was found competent by a judge to be executed.
District Attorney Mark Hall, who was joined by First Assistant Nancy Rumar in
arguing the competency case in August, released a statement saying that he
believes the Judge made the correct call.
Hall intends to file a motion for the Court to set an execution date but
anticipates that before it is carried out, Mays will make a motion that the
Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) review Judge Clayton's order and enter a
judgment of whether to adopt the order, findings, and recommendations.
The CCA will determine whether any existing execution date should be withdrawn
and a stay of execution issued while the court is conducting its review.
Otherwise, the execution will be carried out as ordered.
Leaving the death penalty behind
With 17 executions to date, plus 13 scheduled for the remainder of 2017, the
U.S. may see a historically low number of executions this year, according to a
mid-year review by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Death
sentences, executions, and death penalty support has been waning since capital
punishment's heyday in the late 1990s, and it appears that this trend will
continue far beyond 2017. As capital punishment undergoes a historic decline
and its constitutionality is challenged, states are adopting death penalty
reforms, while some are abandoning the practice altogether, which is making
executions and death sentences ever more rare.
Recently, the Florida Supreme Court required the Sunshine State to cease its
longstanding unconstitutional practice of delivering death sentences without a
unanimous jury decision. As a result, the Florida legislature passed a bill
requiring unanimous jury recommendations in order to sentence someone to die,
bringing the state in compliance with past court rulings. Roughly 200 Florida
death row inmates must be resentenced following the invalidation of their death
sentences due to non-unanimous jury recommendations. Previously, judges were
allowed to sentence defendants to death without a unanimous jury
recommendation. Judges could even override a jury's recommendation altogether.
But following Perry v. State, which struck down this statute, Alabama is left
as the only state where judges may still impose death sentences despite a
Yet, even as Alabama maintains the death penalty, its lawmakers are also
looking to alter the state???s death penalty practices, which may significantly
curtail use. The Alabama legislature sent the Governor a bill that would ban
judges from delivering death sentences in cases where the jury recommended life
incarceration. This process of judicial override has resulted in politically
motivated decision-making in which 92% of all judicial overrides since 1976
were used to overrule life sentences in favor of the death penalty. This
violates a bedrock principle of the criminal justice system whereby a jury of
our peers retains the final authority in trials. The legislature's desire to
end judicial overrides signals a greater commitment to the role of jurors in
the criminal justice system and may result in fewer death sentences.
It's not just sentencing changes in states like Alabama and Florida that are
causing our record low death penalty usage - the public at large is simply
losing faith with the system. According to a 2016 PEW research survey, national
support for the death penalty is below 50% for the 1st time in decades. In
light of this development, we've seen a number of states walk away from the
death penalty. Connecticut and Delaware have continued to empty their death
rows after their death penalty statutes were declared unconstitutional. Adding
to the concerns about the system, 3 people have been exonerated from death row
in 2017 so far, bringing the total number of exonerations up to 159 since 1973.
However, despite apparent breakthroughs on the issue, there is still reason for
While executions are waning in most places, there are a few outlier states that
may witness an uptick in executions. Despite executing the fewest people in 2
decades in 2016, Texas has already executed 4 individuals in 2017, and Ohio is
potentially set to execute 5 people between now and the end of the year. Gov.
Kasich of Ohio even announced an astounding 27 new execution dates through
2021, despite Ohio's history with botched executions and wrongful convictions.
In Ohio, 9 people have been exonerated from death row. Those same exonerees are
now urging the Governor via petition to consider the consequences of
potentially executing 27 people in the next few years. They know firsthand that
the death penalty poses a great risk due to its irreversible nature.
Capital punishment is not going away just yet. Undoubtedly, there will be
challenges to face in 2017 and the years to come. But it's becoming
increasingly likely that remaining states will continue to drastically curtail
or even eliminate their death penalty programs altogether. The evidence is
clear. Wrongful convictions, botched executions, miscarriages of justice, and
the death penalty's high costs have caused the public to lose their support for
the death penalty. It's hopeful that states will respond to this growing
sentiment by leaving the death penalty behind once and for all.
(source: Brian Bensimon, a government major at the University of Texas, is a
Charles Koch Institute Communications Fellow with Conservatives Concerned About
the Death Penalty, a Project of EJUSA----The (Univ. Texas) Daily Texan)
Florida man asks US Supreme Court to halt planned execution
A Florida inmate convicted of killing 2 people decades ago has asked the U.S.
Supreme Court to halt Thursday's scheduled execution.
Attorneys for Michael Lambrix filed the appeal Tuesday. Lambrix was convicted
of killing Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant. Prosecutors said he killed the
pair in 1983 outside his trailer near LaBelle, northeast of Fort Myers, after
an evening of drinking.
Lambrix argued that the execution, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, should be
halted after Florida's death penalty sentencing method was found to be
unconstitutional. The state has since required a unanimous jury vote in death
The jury was not unanimous in either of Lambrix's death sentence decisions, but
Florida's Supreme Court has said the new rules do not apply to cases as old as
(source: Associated Press)
Vigil for Shropshire man's death row pen pal
A British pen pal of a convicted Florida killer on death row will be holding a
vigil as he waits to hear if a last-ditch appeal has succeeded.
Mike Lambrix is due to be executed tonight by lethal injection after 33 years
on death row.
Speaking to US media, Lambrix said recent changes to the law meant his death
sentence was unconstitutional.
Jan Arriens, from Bishop's Castle in Shropshire, has been writing to Lambrix
Mr Arriens said Lambrix currently has 3 appeals before the US Supreme Court,
including one handwritten by the killer himself, running to 25 pages.
It is possible Lambrix won't find out if 1 of his appeals has been successful
"until he's on the gurney waiting for the lethal injection to be applied," Mr
"We're having a vigil with a small number of people here in Bishop's Castle,"
"We'll be sitting here not knowing what's happened unless a stay comes through.
If it goes ahead, we won't know until we get a text from a witness."
According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, Lambrix murdered a couple he had
invited to his trailer for dinner.
He was accused of attacking Clarence Moore Jr when they were alone outside the
trailer, then calling Aleisha Bryant outside, where she was kicked in the head
Mr Arriens said Lambrix claims he hit the man in self defence after finding Ms
But the Florida state's version was he killed both victims intentionally.
Under recent changes to the law in Florida, Mr Arriens said Lambrix would not
have been sentenced to death because jurors did not vote unanimously for his
Lambrix told US media: "It won't be an execution. It'll be a deliberate act of
"Myself and everybody sentenced to death since 1974 who had anything less than
a unanimous jury verdict were illegally and unconstitutionally sentenced to
Mr Arriens won't know if his pen pal has died until after Lambrix's scheduled
execution at 23:00 BST (18:00 local time).
He added: "He knows the end could well come today."
(source: BBC News)
Push for stay of execution for Michael Lambrix
Michael Lambrix has maintained his innocence for 34 years, but he said he won't
repeat the claim, out of respect for the victims' families, if it comes time
for him to make a final statement at his execution.
Michael Lambrix is a Plant City high school dropout. He had run-ins with the
law at an early age.
"Just stupid stuff. writing bad checks, and stealing a couple cars," Lambrix
Lambrix was arrested after his girlfriend was stopped in Tampa driving the
"A witness that the jury in my 1st trial found so un-credible that they
couldn't reach any verdict," he said.
Florida's Catholic Bishops have sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott, asking
him to stop the pending execution. It cites both constitutional and moral
Ingrid DelGado of the Florida Catholic Conference said, "Had Mr. Lambrix been
sentenced after 2002, his case would be eligible for resentencing, but also Mr.
Lambrix has indicated he was offered a plea deal, which had he accepted it, he
would have already returned to society."
During an hour-long interview, Lambrix repeatedly professed his innocence.
"In fact, I'll be the only honorably discharged disabled veteran Governor Scott
has ever killed," he said.
But the death row inmate says he will not repeat his claims of innocence if it
comes to making a final statement at his execution.
Lambrix said, "The last thing I want to do is cause any more pain or suffering
to the Bryant family."
Instead, Lambrix will say the Lord's Prayer
Lambrix said, "I have no doubt whatsoever that I'm going to wake up to a better
Lambrix's family, including his mother, stepfather, sisters, and children are
all at the prison. All are being counseled about grief in what could be the
final hours of Michael Lambrix's life.
A spokesman for Governor Rick Scott said, "Signing death warrants is one of the
governor's most solemn duties. The governor's top concern is always with the
families of the victims of these horrible crimes."
(source: WJHG news)
Prosecutors seek death penalty for mother, daughter charged in toddler's
Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for an Orlando mother and daughter
accused in the beating death of a toddler on July 7.
A grand jury in late August indicted Callene M. Barton, 58, and Lakesha Lewis,
29, on charges of 1st-degree murder, witness intimidation and child neglect.
The 2 are accused of beating 3-year-old Xavier Mokarzel-Satchel with a plastic
wand from window blinds before Barton threw the boy against a wall. Xavier died
hours later from blunt-force trauma to his head.
In court documents, prosecutors listed Xavier's young age and the fact that he
was "particularly vulnerable" among the case's aggravating circumstances to
justify seeking the death penalty if they are convicted.
Xavier was the son of Lewis's live-in girlfriend, Brandi Marie Mokarzel, 23, of
Mokarzel previously testified that the abuse that led to her son's death began
back months before. She said the women beat him with slippers, plastic spoons
and the wand ultimately used in Xavier's death.
Xavier's fatal beating was a punishment for helping himself to yogurt and milk
and making a mess, Mokarzel told investigators. Photos from the scene showed a
milk jug on the kitchen floor with the cap off and little pieces of the plastic
wand scattered around the living room.
As Xavier laid dying, Mokarzel said Lewis and Barton told her they would have
her and Xavier hurt or killed if she told officers about the abuse.
Mokarzel is charged with child neglect.
(source: Orlando Sentinel)
Florida to seek death penalty against suspect in "killer clown" cold case
Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against a woman accused of
dressing up like a clown in 1990 and fatally shooting the wife of her future
State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement Wednesday saying he will seek
the death penalty against 54-year-old Sheila Keen Warren, who was ordered held
without bond at a court hearing.
She was extradited Tuesday from Abingdon, Virginia, where she lived with her
husband Michael Warren for years.
Sheila Warren was arrested last month. Officials say Marlene Warren was shot in
the face by a clown delivering carnations and balloons. Investigators say a new
DNA testing gave them what they needed to make an arrest.
Attorney Richard Lubin said Sheila Warren "vehemently denies" the killing.
Detectives who were giving the case a fresh look in 2014 learned that in 2002,
Keen Warren had married the victim's husband, Michael Warren. A cold case
detective said several witnesses told police that Keen Warren -- then Sheila
Keen -- and Michael Warren were having an affair. Both, however, have denied
that they were romantically involved at the time of the 1990 murder.
Michael Warren was with his now wife when she was arrested in Virginia and was
re-interviewed in the case, police say.
He has not been charged, but police refused to rule him out as a suspect.
Detectives vowed to "work diligently" to determine if anyone else was involved
in the slaying.
(source: CBS News)
Divided court opens door for Alabama execution
In a brief order entered yesterday afternoon, the Supreme Court allowed the
execution of an Alabama inmate to go forward. The state had asked the court to
intervene after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit put the
execution on hold; the ruling means that the execution of Jeffrey Borden can
proceed as scheduled this evening.
Borden was sentenced to death for the murders of his estranged wife and her
father on Christmas Eve 1993. He shot Cheryl Borden in the back of her head in
front of their children; he then shot his father-in-law in the back as he
attempted to run to safety. Borden's challenge to his execution has been a
common one in death-penalty cases in recent years: He argues that the 3-drug
protocol that the state plans to use to execute him violates the Constitution's
bar on cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, he contends, the 1st drug
in that protocol - midazolam - will sedate him but cannot guarantee that he
will not feel excruciating pain from the drugs that follow.
A federal district court in Alabama dismissed his claims, but the 11th Circuit
reversed and ordered the district court to order an evidentiary hearing. Last
week the court of appeals put the execution on hold to give the lower court
enough time to consider Borden's claims. That prompted Alabama to go to the
Supreme Court on Monday, where it told the justices that "Alabama has already
carried out 4 executions using this protocol. Any questions concerning 3-drug
midazolam protocols have effectively been answered."
3 justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor -
indicated that they would have denied the state's request, leaving Borden 2
justices short of the support that he needed to block his execution.
U.S. Supreme Court clears Thursday execution in Alabama
The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday cleared the way for Alabama's planned
execution Thursday of inmate Jeffrey Lynn Borden for the Christmas Eve 1993
shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her father in Gardendale.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order granting the request of the Alabama
Attorney General's Office to vacate the injunction blocking the execution that
had been issued by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The
Attorney General's Office had appealed the 11th Circuit's order to the U.S.
Supreme Court on Monday.
In the order from the U.S. Supreme Court 3 associate justices - Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor - said they would have denied the
Attorney General's request and kept the injunction blocking the execution in
The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Holman Correctional
Facility in Atmore.
Borden has been on death row 22 years, and was convicted of the murders of
Cheryl Borden and her father Roland Harris. The murders took place at a family
gathering in Gardendale on Christmas Eve 1993.
On Tuesday morning attorneys for Borden filed a response to the Alabama
Attorney General's Office motion saying the stay of execution should remain in
Inmate asks high court to keep execution on hold
An Alabama inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to keep his execution on
Lawyers for 56-year-old Jeffery Lynn Borden on Tuesday asked justices to uphold
the injunction currently blocking Borden's execution scheduled for Thursday.
Borden has challenged the humanness of Alabama's lethal injection procedure.
His lawyers said the state is making a "macabre and cynical attempt" to end
that legal challenge by executing him.
Alabama asked the high court to overturn an injunction issued last week by the
11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The state argued justices have allowed other executions to proceed using the
same drug combination, and Borden's should go forward as well.
Borden was convicted of killing his estranged wife, Cheryl Borden, and her
father, Roland Harris, during a 1993 Christmas Eve gathering.
(source: Montgomery Advertiser)
STATE MOVES TO HAVE STAY OF EXECUTION LIFTED
The State of Alabama has asked the US Supreme Court to lift a stay of execution
granted to Jeffrey Borden, and to be allowed to execute him before midnight on
5 October. While the stay relates to a challenge to the state???s lethal
injection protocol, Jeffrey Borden is said by his lawyers to have a severe
mental disability and to be "actively psychotic".
??? Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:
* Call on the governor to stop this execution of Jeffrey Borden and to commute
his death sentence;
* Note with deep concern the evidence of Jeffrey Borden's serious mental
* Explain that you are not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the crime or
the suffering caused
Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of
forwarding this one!
Contact below official by 5 October, 2017:
Governor Kay Ivey
Alabama State Capitol, 600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Fax: +1 334 353 0004
(If you are not based in the US, please use Amnesty's New York office as your
5 Penn Plaza, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001)
Salutation: Dear Governor
(source: Amnesty International USA)
Former death row inmate John Thompson, who became advocate for the exonerated,
dies at 55
John Thompson, a former death row inmate who narrowly escaped execution in
1999, then won his release from prison and a fleeting $14 million judgment
against the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office over a shocking case of
prosecutorial misconduct, died Tuesday at a local hospital.
The cause was a heart attack, said local prison reform advocate Norris
Henderson, a friend who knew Thompson from their years at the Louisiana State
Penitentiary at Angola.
Thompson was 55.
After his release in 2003, Thompson became a national voice for victims of
prosecutorial abuses. Locally, he founded Resurrection After Exoneration, a
re-entry and support program for released inmates on St. Bernard Avenue.
"John was a good person. All he wanted to do with the rest of his life was kind
of give back," Henderson said. "He traveled across the country, educating
public defenders about the attorney-client relationship - how they have to
listen to their clients. When you hear a bunch of stories about 'I didn't do
it,' people get jaded."
Thompson's own prosecution involved hidden blood evidence in a carjacking case
that former District Attorney Harry Connick's office used to help secure his
conviction and death sentence in the high-profile murder of New Orleans hotel
executive Ray Liuzza Jr.
Thompson was accused in both crimes, which took place a few months apart in
Connick's office tried him first in the carjacking. A jury convicted him, and a
judge handed Thompson a 49-year prison sentence. Thompson then declined to take
the witness stand in his murder trial, knowing the earlier conviction would
come into play if he testified.
He'd spent 14 years on death row and was just 30 days from an execution date
that appeared certain when an investigator discovered blood evidence from the
carjacking victim's clothes that the state never revealed. It was the
carjacker's blood, but it wasn't Thompson's.
A former prosecutor then revealed that Gerry Deegan, one of the prosecutors who
tried Thompson, confessed on his death bed in 1994 that he intentionally hid
the blood evidence.
Both convictions were thrown out, and Thompson was acquitted in a 2003 retrial
for Liuzza's murder. Thompson testified in his own defense, along with new
witnesses who contradicted the state's evidence. He was released that day and
later won a federal jury verdict for $14 million in 2007.
But in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court dissolved that award, ruling in
2011 that a district attorney's office can't be held liable for a single
violation of Brady v. Maryland, the 1963 decision that requires prosecutors to
turn over all favorable evidence to the defense.
Thompson had failed to show there was a pattern of violations in Connick's
office that would demonstrate "deliberate indifference" in failing to train
prosecutors, the court found in an opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Thompson wasn't shy afterward in accusing Connick's office of criminal acts, in
his case and others.
"I don't care about the money. I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid
evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn't do and nearly had me killed
are not in jail themselves," Thompson wrote in a 2011 editorial published in
The New York Times. "There were no ethics charges against them, no criminal
charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can
Thompson was always clear that, while he was not a killer, he was no angel at
the time of his arrest.
He was a hustler and small-time drug dealer when police fingered him in
Liuzza's killing. He said he had sold a marijuana joint laced with PCP to a
customer who paid him with the murder weapon and a ring that had belonged to
When Thompson first arrived on death row in 1987, he entered his assigned cell
to find the belongings of Sterling Rault, who had just been executed - 1 of 8
executions that year in Louisiana, all by electric chair.
"My mind would light with images of me being strapped to the chair, the sound
of electricity ringing in my head," Thompson wrote later.
At first, he was hot-headed and regularly disciplined by prison officials.
Older prisoners such as Mwalimu Johnson and Robert King Wilkerson helped him
break the pattern, Thompson said.
"When I got out of the hole, Mwalimu would say, 'When you gonna stop that? You
can't win that war,'" Thompson said.
"You use that ink pen, use that pencil," Wilkerson told him, advising Thompson
to fight the system in court.
Thompson lost his grandmother, who raised him, and his father while he sat on
death row in the mid-1990s. His sons, Dedric and John Jr., were 6 and 4 when he
was arrested. They grew up thinking he was a killer, and during visits to
Angola, they spoke with their father through a steel-mesh window the size of a
Thompson, though, was intent on maintaining contact.
"I remember one time, when he was talking with me on the phone, I had
complained about the school shoes my mom had bought me. Not a week later, a
brand-new pair of sneakers arrived at my house, from him," said Dedric West,
who's now 38.
West also recalled a visit to Angola when Thompson was nearing 1 of his 6
"He asked me to promise him that I wasn't going to be angry with the system and
then do something that he didn't approve of," he said. "He wanted to make sure
that I didn't have any ill feelings toward society. And I understood that. So I
When a court assigned Thompson his last execution date, for May 1999, he sold
his belongings to other prisoners to raise money for his family. Those inmates
sent money orders to Carol Kolinchak, one of Thompson's lawyers, with
"To the last, he wanted to do his best to support them," Kolinchak said.
"That's what he was thinking about in those moments."
After his acquittal, Thompson got back in touch with a childhood friend,
Laverne Thompson. They wed in June 2003 and moved into a Habitat for
Humanity-built house in the St. Roch neighborhood.
Though he devoted himself to exposing prosecutorial corruption, Thompson
maintained a sense of humor that revealed itself in easy laughter at the antics
of his grandchildren. A gifted mimic, he often would parrot the voices of
arrogant public officials.
Still, he said he continued to feel the effects of his time inside prison.
"I'm still struggling," he said often. "I'm still struggling every day."
Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, described Thompson as
"an amazing force in the world" and a "national legend" who fought for justice
as a New Orleanian, not only as a death row survivor.
"He was nearly murdered by the state, so Clarence Thomas taking away a jury
verdict was nothing for John, except that it said in the halls of power your
life still doesn't matter," Maw said hours after Thompson's death.
"He was always strong and thoughtful and defiant. I can't say it didn't affect
him, that it wasn't gut-wrenching for him to be formally told that he did not
matter enough ... that none of that mattered enough," she added.
"But he did what he always did with the dreadful injustices life threw at him
over and over again: He decided to use it to fight for accountability and more
justice for people who came after him."
Thompson is survived by his wife and 2 sons.
(source: The New Orleans Advocate)
John Thompson, Cleared After 14 Years on Death Row, Dies at 55
On May 20, 1999, the day before his younger son's high school graduation, John
Thompson was scheduled to be electrocuted in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
He had survived 6 other execution dates, but he was running out of miracles.
Early in 1985, when he was 22, Mr. Thompson had been arrested in New Orleans
for a carjacking and for the separate murder of a local hotel executive.
By 1999, he had spent 14 years on death row at the notorious maximum-security
prison farm known as Angola, named for the nation from which blacks who worked
on a former plantation there had been abducted by slave traders.
Just 30 days before his scheduled execution, a private investigator hired by
his lawyers stumbled upon a forgotten microfiche.
The film included images of a laboratory report that had been received by the
district attorney 2 days before Mr. Thompson's trial was to begin. The report
categorically undermined the prosecution's case, revealing that the blood type
of whoever committed the carjacking did not match Mr. Thompson's.
Moreover, in a deathbed confession, a former assistant prosecutor admitted he
had deliberately hidden the blood evidence from Mr. Thompson's trial lawyers.
After tests confirmed that Mr. Thompson's blood type and DNA did not match the
perpetrator's, his robbery conviction was overturned. In 2002, the murder
verdict was reversed. A year later, he was retried and acquitted after the jury
deliberated for 35 minutes.
Mr. Thompson was awarded $14 million in damages by a Louisiana jury in 2007 -
$1 million for every year he was isolated for 23 hours a day in a windowless
cell, awaiting his execution.
But in 2011, an ideologically split United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4
that Mr. Thompson was not entitled to damages after all.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented, said at least 5 prosecutors had
been complicit in violating Mr. Thompson's constitutional rights because "they
kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense."
But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Mr. Thompson had
not demonstrated that the office of District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. (father
of the singer) had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence, particularly
from black defendants, or had not trained his assistants sufficiently.
"The role of a prosecutor," Justice Thomas wrote, "is to see that justice is
done. By their own admission, the prosecutors who tried Thompson's armed
robbery case failed to carry out this responsibility.
"But the only issue before us," he added, "is whether Connick, as the policy
maker for the district attorney's office, was deliberately indifferent to the
need to train the attorneys under his authority."
Mr. Thompson died of a heart attack on Tuesday in a New Orleans hospital,
according to Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which
helped represent him in his appeals. He was 55.
In the decade since he was exonerated, Mr. Thompson had married, become a
churchgoer and established an organization called Resurrection After
Exoneration to help and house former inmates in similar predicaments.
"I don't care about the money," he wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York
Times in 2011. "I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent
me to prison for something I didn't do and nearly had me killed are not in jail
"There were no ethics charges against them," he continued, "no criminal
charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can
Mr. Thompson was born in New Orleans on Sept. 6, 1962. By the time his mother,
Josephine Thompson, gave birth, John's father, Charles Jackson, was serving a
life sentence for murder.
Raised mostly by his grandparents in the Central City neighborhood, he dropped
out of high school and fathered 2 sons by 2 different girlfriends while still a
On Jan. 17, 1985, the police kicked in the door of his grandmother's house
while Mr. Thompson was there and as his girlfriend, mother and 2 sons - John
Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 - huddled in terror.
The carjacking of a vehicle carrying young siblings had occurred a few weeks
before, on Dec. 28, 1984. Mr. Thompson was charged with that crime and also,
along with a co-defendant, Kevin Freeman, with murdering a local hotel
executive, Ray Liuzza Jr., on Dec. 6. Mr. Freeman implicated Mr. Thompson.
"A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun," Mr. Thompson said of Mr.
Freeman in the Op-Ed article. "It turned out that the ring belonged to the
victim and the gun was the murder weapon.
"My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like
someone who had recently tried to rob his children," Mr. Thompson continued.
"Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery 1st. My
lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted
based on the victims' identification.
"After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn't testify at the murder
trial. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the
robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty."
After being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the carjacking that he insisted
he did not commit, Mr. Thompson was convicted of murder and received the death
Less than 2 months after he was released in 2003, after a total of 18 years in
prison, he married Laverne Jackson, with whom he had grown up and who attended
church with his mother.
He is survived by his wife; his mother, Josephine Casey; two half-brothers,
Jermaine and Charles Jackson; a half-sister, Shermaine Jackson; 5 stepchildren;
and 12 grandchildren and stepgrandchildren.
At various points in his appeals and civil suit, Mr. Thompson was represented
without fee by, among others, Michael L. Banks and J. Gordon Cooney Jr. of
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Philadelphia and Ms. Maw of the Innocence Project.
She was assisted by Barry Scheck, director of the Innocence Project nationwide.
In a 2003 interview on the website probono.net, Mr. Banks said, "The initial
linchpin to our success was proving that John was not responsible for an
unrelated carjacking that effectively prevented him from testifying in his own
defense during the murder trial."
Mr. Scheck said in a phone interview that initially "his lawyers didn't
necessarily think he was innocent; they were just trying to save his life."
But, he added, "the more they went into it, the whole thing unraveled."
Similar cases have continued to emerge in New Orleans as recently as this year,
Mr. Scheck said.
In the Thompson case, after the blood test results pointed to Mr. Thompson's
innocence, a former prosecutor, Michael Riehlmann, disclosed that several years
earlier, an ailing junior assistant, Gerry Deegan, as he was nearing death, had
confessed that he gone into an evidence room and removed the pants from which
the bloodstains were taken in order to keep them from the defense.
Mr. Connick, the district attorney, did not seek re-election in 2003. His
successor, Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., expressed relief when the Supreme Court
reversed the civil award. With interest, it would have amounted to nearly $20
million - more than the annual budget of the prosecutor's office.
Mr. Thompson was stunned.
"If I'd spilled hot coffee on myself, I could have sued the person who served
me the coffee," he said. "But I can't sue the prosecutors who nearly murdered
Ms. Maw, of the Innocence Project, recalled that Mr. Thompson had maintained
his commitment to reforming the judicial system from the moment he was
"He was angry, and yet he had astounding strength from the moment he got out
and a need to channel his anger to doing good in the world," she said in a
phone interview. "And that is what he did until he died."
(source: New York Times)
OHIO----death sentence overturned
Ohio court overturns death sentence in bartender's death
The knife collection of a man accused of raping and killing a female bartender
should not have been introduced into evidence at trial because the weapons
weren't used in the slaying, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday as it
overturned the conviction and death sentence of the accused.
The ruling sends the case of defendant Joseph Thomas back to northeastern
Ohio's Lake County for a new trial.
Thomas, 33, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012 for the slaying of
Annie McSween 2 years earlier.
Prosecutors say Thomas attacked the 49-year-old McSween by her car after she
asked him to leave the bar where she worked.
Writing for the majority, Justice Terrence O'Donnell said the trial judge
improperly allowed into evidence a knife collection belonging to Thomas but not
involved in the killing. Allowing the 5 knives was misleading given the
circumstantial case against Thomas, O'Donnell said.
"This evidence painted Thomas as someone with bad character and allowed the
jury to convict him on the basis that he acted in conformity with it,"
Justice Patrick Fischer, writing for the minority, noted that prosecutors
argued Thomas was known to carry a blue knife, and that knife was missing from
his collection. Fischer acknowledged it was a "close question" whether
introducing that evidence was a mistake.
Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said Wednesday he'll ask the court to
reconsider its decision.
The knife collection "was introduced because the defendant had a blue knife,
people saw the defendant having a blue knife that night, when we go to his
collection, the blue knife is missing," Coulson said. "So that's circumstantial
evidence toward part of the crime."
The prosecutor has 30 days to file for reconsideration.
John Parker, Thomas' defense attorney, said he was happy with the ruling.
(source: The Republic)
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